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Love Your Heart More! Limiting Sugar & Refined Carbs

Limiting sugar and refined carbs is all about loving your heart more. Here's how to do it.

Love Your Heart More! Limiting Sugar & Refined Carbs

Heart disease is the number one killer for men and women in the United States. The risk of heart disease increases if you have type 2 diabetes, are overweight or obese, consume an unhealthy diet, have a sedentary lifestyle, or consume excess alcohol. Luckily, all of these major risk factors are modifiable. This article will focus on the necessary dietary components to love your heart. Here are our top 5.

1. Kick your sugar habit

Though dietary fats were often to blame for poor heart health, recent data has revealed that excess added sugar may play an even more significant role. A study in the Journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases found that a diet high in sugar, even for short amounts of time, could increase metabolic abnormalities in the body often seen in individuals with heart disease. These may include an impact on insulin resistance and cholesterol. The authors also noted that high-sugar diets might pose an independent risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, pre-diabetes, and diabetes.

Being diagnosed with any of these conditions may also increase a persons overall risk for heart disease. To kick the sugar habit, you'll need to eat less added sugar in cookies, candy, and pastries. If you are craving a sweet treat, consider a piece of fruit instead. In the study, authors noted that even though fruit contains simple sugar, it does not appear to increase the risk of heart disease the way added sugar will. Consider lower-sugar alternatives when reaching for cookies, protein bars, and confectionary treats while working on limiting sugar from your diet.

2. Get to know a moderate-carb dietary pattern.

Studies show that limiting carbohydrates (especially those made from stripped or refined grains) may help reduce your overall risk for type 2 diabetes – a known risk factor for heart disease. Moderate carbohydrate approaches with lots of vegetables may also help lower the overall mortality risk, according to a recent study in the Journal The Lancet. Moderate carbohydrate patterns often limit dietary carbohydrates to 45% or less of total calories. Choosing lower carbohydrate options is easier than you may think. You can start by limiting grains to intact versions, such as quinoa or steel-cut oats. You can also focus on eating non-starchy vegetables more often in place of potatoes and other starchy vegetables. Additionally, you may consider lower-sugar fruits such as berries, apples, or pears.

3. Fall in love with extra virgin olive oil

Your heart loves extra virgin olive oil (in moderation) – and the studies prove it. A 2020 study found that individuals who consumed at least ½ TBS of olive oil daily had lower rates of early death from heart disease. Another 2017 Journal Circulation study found that including extra virgin olive oil in the diet could help lower LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is generally considered bad cholesterol that can stick to the sides of your arteries,. To get more olive oil in your diet, drizzle olive oil on vegetable and grain dishes and use olive oil as your primary source of fat in dressings and sauces.

4. Embrace the ocean

When considering your protein options, think of animals that swim! Wild fish, such as salmon, lake trout, and sardines, contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown these fats to contribute to lowered blood pressure in individuals with hypertension (a risk factor for heart attack and stroke) and improve other cardiovascular outcomes. You can consume omega-3s from plants as well, including walnuts and chia seeds, although the body needs to convert them into the more beneficial forms of omega-3’s found in fish.

5. Get a good gut

When it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease, a good gut, specifically, good gut bacteria, may play a role. A 2020 study found a link between beneficial gut bacteria and the prevention of heart disease. How can you start focusing on your gut? Follow the suggestions already mentioned, like eating less sugar and refined grains. You can also focus on getting adequate prebiotics (found in foods like leeks and garlic, whole intact grains, and chicory root) and probiotics (found in fermented foods like tempeh, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha).

It's never too late to start taking care of your ticker! Doing so will ultimately benefit the rest of your health as well!